Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is an honor to write to you from my office in Olympia as your 2nd District State Representative. On Monday, Jan. 10, the 2011 legislative session officially began and I took an oath to: “uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, the Constitution and laws of the State of Washington, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of a Washington State Representative to the best of my ability.”
Committees are an important part of the process in the Legislature. It is here that public hearings take place and citizens can give testimony in favor or against legislation. I will be serving on four House committees this year:
- Agriculture and Natural Resources (I will serve as assistant ranking Republican) – considers issues relating to agricultural production; water; fisheries and wildlife; forest protection; state-owned lands; animal and plant disease control and mining.
- Ways and Means – considers the operating budget; fiscal issues such as pension policy; as well as state and local taxes.
- Education – considers kindergarten through 12th-grade educational policy and finance issues.
- General Government Appropriations and Oversight – considers issues relating to funding and oversight of general government, natural resources and corrections programs and agencies. It also makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee.
The budget situation
Our state is facing about a $5 billion shortfall, and with that comes difficult decisions. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I will be carefully analyzing where taxpayer dollars are spent, because every dollar in the state budget came from you. We need to find long-term solutions that put Washington on a stable path of prosperity and growth for generations. Taxpayers are tired of gimmicks; they want an honest state budget that lives within its means. My experience as a Chief Financial Officer in a family business showed me that honest budgeting means you have to make difficult choices.
With more than 300,000 people unemployed in our state right now, we have to put job creation at the top of the agenda. This means re-creating the conditions that once allowed the rural economy in Pierce and Thurston counties to flourish.
Employers and farmers need the Legislature to streamline and rationalize regulation with common-sense reforms so they can succeed and create jobs. Families want to see more value and less waste from state government.
As we grapple with balancing the budget, we must continue to provide a quality education for students that helps them succeed.
Each week, I will profile a question I have received in the Legislature and provide my answer for everyone. Please send your questions!
Q: With a large budget deficit, is the state going to cut levy equalization funding?
A: Levy equalization is a mechanism created to ensure we have equal education across the state. Rural school districts like all of ours in the 2nd District depend on this funding to make up for a less robust tax base than districts with higher property values. Our state Constitution mandates the Legislature to adequately fund education for all. We must ensure every child in our state has the same opportunity to succeed, and levy equalization allows for that. I am absolutely dedicated to ensuring levy equalization is kept intact and I know this means cutting other lower priority programs.
Please feel free to come visit me in my office in Olympia – I would love to see you! Last week, students from Kapowsin Elementary visited with me and my seatmates, Sen. Randi Becker and Rep. Jim McCune. Sharing with these students about their government was a treat.
You can call, write or e-mail my office any time. My legislative aide, Jennifer Austin, and myself are making it a priority to respond to your messages.